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Tech Or Management Beyond Age 39? 592

Posted by kdawson
from the when-you-come-to-a-fork-in-the-road-take-it dept.
relliker writes "So here I am at age 39 with two contractual possibilities, for practically the same pay. With one, I continue being a techie for the foreseeable future — always having to keep myself up-to-date on everything tech and re-inventing myself with each Web.x release to stay on top. With the other, I'm being offered a chance to get into management, something I also enjoy doing and am seriously considering for the rest of my working life. The issue here is the age of my grey matter. Will I still be employable in tech at this age and beyond? Or should I relinquish the struggle to keep up with progress and take the comfy 'old man' management route so that I can stay employable even in my twilight years? What would Slashdot veterans advise at this age?"
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Tech Or Management Beyond Age 39?

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  • by Panzor (1372841) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @11:49PM (#28617499)

    Do what makes you happy, man. If you wanted to do management like you said, then go for it. The only reason people want money is for happiness. Getting happiness out of the job is a bonus.

    • by five18pm (763804) * on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @11:56PM (#28617565)
      You have to know tech either way, whether you continue to be in tech or go in to management, you have to know the tech and update yourself continuously if you want to hold your own. With that in mind, if management does make you happy, go for it.
      • by MagusSlurpy (592575) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:05AM (#28617659) Homepage

        You have to know tech either way, whether you continue to be in tech or go in to management

        I want to work where you do. My company hires management based on management experience, not experience in the field I work in. Then they quit after two months because they don't know what's going on and all the working stiffs are making fun of them. Hire new manager, rinse, and repeat.

        • How long were you a tech. I generally have a postion for over a decade. In that time I get a new manager every year on average. Are you looking for stability or adventure?

        • by whowantscream (911883) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:36AM (#28617873)

          My company hires management based on management experience, not experience in the field I work in.

          Unfortunately I'm going to have to agree with this - especially in the higher levels of management. Sometimes it is the organization's lack of understanding of IT and need to relate to the IT manager that leads to someone with limited tech experience being hired. Other times a once tech savvy manager ends up getting further and further removed from operations - instead being forced to spend their time politicking and worrying about bottom lines.

          Ultimately you should make your decision based off of what makes you happiest - as others have said. Get an understanding of what your role in management will actually entail and determine the distance you'll be from operations.

          Being 39 doesn't make you 'too old for tech'... being lazy, unwilling to change, inexperienced and out of touch does. On the other side - some people are built for management and some aren't. Unfortunately a lot of people who aren't still end up in management positions.

          • by WillKemp (1338605) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @04:10AM (#28618971) Homepage

            Being 39 doesn't make you 'too old for tech'... being lazy, unwilling to change, inexperienced and out of touch does.

            Conveniently, those are also required qualifications for being a manager!

          • by realkiwi (23584) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @04:40AM (#28619091)

            Being 39 doesn't make you 'too old for tech'... being lazy, unwilling to change, inexperienced and out of touch does.

            Sometimes slashdot has comments that are based on common sense! Last year I found a web job. 15 people were interviewed before me. Many were in their 20s. I am 54...

          • by eudaemon (320983) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @05:08AM (#28619209)

            I've been an unabashed computer nerd since the word go - taught myself programming, worked in
            the field even during high-school and college, and never looked back. But at some point,
            somewhere around a 3 AM disaster involving a failed firehose controller, I decided the
            classic UNIX SA/DBA role - at least in frontline support - was wearing thin. I took a
            job as an architect instead, but at least I mostly got to sleep nights. Then I switched jobs
            again about 5 years ago and started in a role that was prod support and team lead. 5 years later
            I manage 30'sh people - a mix of j2ee server admins and dba's and I still need to be somewhat
            technical but I don't have to log into a console anywhere and deploy code or debug anything any more.

            The years of technical experience mean I'm still driving troubleshooting when it gets really bad.
            I still bang out perl scripts when I need to, and I still get into architectural discussions with
            the application development teams who want to do stupid things because it's easy or cheap for them.

            Being a manager (at least in my world) means dealing with an entirely different layer of issues, though.
            You have to be able to influence people and coerce them into doing what they should be doing anyway:
            No you can't have all the available memory for your JVM cache, no you can't have 6 TB of disk space
            to keep online backups "just in case", yes you really have to make your code clustered and resilient. Yes
            you really have to give the prod support guys real docs and a way to recover if something fails. I feel
            like my title should be "Master of stating the obvious" and if we're ever allowed to pick our titles that will
            be on my business card. But the point is - you still need (and will have) the technical skills you accrued
            and you'll be using them.

            Some orgs look for people who have "pure" management backgrounds and can't wield a screwdriver, but they usually
            suffer from management myopia "anything I don't understand must be easy to do." My personal opinion is the
            best managers of tech organizations are those who have some sort of technical background, even if it's no longer
            current - the problem-solving mindset remains.

        • by sumdumass (711423) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:49AM (#28617953) Journal

          You must be at a good company. I know of several companies which a degree in physical education is enough to secure a mid level management position.

          All those stories about the pointy hair bosses that could surf the interweb if you didn't show them how to didn't come from nowhere.

        • by guilliamo (977425) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @01:30AM (#28618155)
          It's a matter of your complete competency. Techies and management alike can get promoted with appropriate pay with most modern, small or large companies. I am 54 and have elected to spin the consulting trail. I did so out of need after 911 shut the doors down on many opportunities in 2001. Started on the consulting trail only to find that it works. I did not want to be a JAVA developer driving a cab. Bright nimble minds with the ability to traverse the political IT jungle will always be in the loop. Age means nothing.
        • by UnderCoverPenguin (1001627) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:18AM (#28618387)

          I want to work where you do. My company hires management based on management experience, not experience in the field I work in. Then they quit after two months because they don't know what's going on

          At least those managers had the grace to leave. At all too many of my clients, such managers don't care that they don't understand what their subordinates do.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:26AM (#28618439)

          You have to know tech either way, whether you continue to be in tech or go in to management

          I want to work where you do. My company hires management based on management experience, not experience in the field I work in. Then they quit after two months because they don't know what's going on and all the working stiffs are making fun of them. Hire new manager, rinse, and repeat.

          This is going to sound more confrontational than I mean it, but when I hear that sort of comment in real life I immediately wonder whether the real problem is a bunch of immature employees who are too proud of their technical skills and unable to figure out what's actually needed in the work place.

          There are certainly a lot of bad managers, but there are far more mediocre ones who have some flaws, but more than enough skills to help a talented group succeed. Good employees figures out what those skills are and how to take advantage of them--and most managers appreciate that. Inexperienced ones say in their comfort zone, focus on management deficiencies, which lets them feel superior and complain to colleagues in the lunch room.

          Going out of your way to help find ways for a mediocre manager to succeed can make you start to feel really underpaid--isn't it supposed to be the other way around? Aren't you performing well above your pay grade? Well, yes; but in a halfway decent organization overperforming in this way gets rewarded, evenutally. Usually far faster than overperforming just on tech, which requires a technical manager to truly appreciate.

          I've never met you, so I have no opinion about whether this is the case in your organization. But if you've had a succession of bosses who are so bad you can't work with them, I'd really move on. Nearly all organizations are somewhat dysfunctional, but being that sort of magnet for bad managers means you can't help but to improve your situation by moving.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mcvos (645701)

            This is going to sound more confrontational than I mean it, but when I hear that sort of comment in real life I immediately wonder whether the real problem is a bunch of immature employees who are too proud of their technical skills and unable to figure out what's actually needed in the work place.

            Aren't you expecting the techies to do the manager's job here? Figuring out what's needed in the workplace is a manager's job. He needs to figure out what his workers need to get the job done, not the other way around.

            There are certainly a lot of bad managers, but there are far more mediocre ones who have some flaws, but more than enough skills to help a talented group succeed. Good employees figures out what those skills are and how to take advantage of them--and most managers appreciate that.

            Putting a mediocre manager in charge of good and talented employees can only work out if the manager is aware that the people working for him are more talented than he is. It can work out sometimes (my boss gets us involved with mission statements and vision for the future, as well as helping

          • by BrokenHalo (565198) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @03:41AM (#28618833)
            But if you've had a succession of bosses who are so bad you can't work with them, I'd really move on.

            Or better still, have a good long think about what you're doing wrong. Over the course of my life, I've come across any number of people who have a tendency towards sequential fallings-out with one person after another, who project the "fault" as being the other's.
      • by samkass (174571) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:19AM (#28617767) Homepage Journal

        Slashdot generally seems to consider tech something that requires cutting-edge skills but management as something anyone could do. I haven't found that to be the case. Being a good manager requires staying up on the management skills, techniques, and tools. It also often requires some politics, budget skills, and decisiveness. It's not something anyone can do well, and it's not something you can sit back and relax in and expect to stay good at it.

        Personally if I left tech I'd head for business development, but that's just me. You still get to play with all the latest toys that way. :)

        • by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:29AM (#28617845)
          You can't sit back and relax and expect to be good. But you CAN sit back relax, be really bad, and not get fired.
        • by ojustgiveitup (869923) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:41AM (#28617907)
          Hi! (I'm trying to start with a friendly vibe because otherwise I'm afraid my comment might come off as sarcastic.) I think that the reason the slashdot community generally considers management to be a no-brainer (as evidenced very recently by your extremely underrated post) is that we all believe, often from first-hand experience, but also from hear-say, speculation, and exaggeration, that many of the "skills, techniques, and tools" that managers try to stay up on are merely bullshit to make them managers seem busy and justify their continued employment. I'm curious (seriously) what things you think managers need to keep up with that don't fall into that category.
          • I'd mod parent up but I'm too interested in this thread...

            As far as I've ever seen being directly related to one and friends with a few other of those managers most of those "Skills, techniques, and tools" are just the stereotypical "inspirational" stuff with lots of buzzwords and very little substance that's mostly about taking up time and producing paperwork from nothing.

            There ARE genuine skills a manager needs but most of those seem to be abstracts rather than actual book skills like a tech person needs

          • by TheLink (130905) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:34AM (#28618505) Journal
            In most companies you can get by with being a mediocre manager.

            It's hard to be a good manager but a good middle manager is very valuable to a company (even if not valued by it ;) ).

            For example, say the manager is managing a project and a team of programmers.

            1) When the Big Bosses ask the manager - hey when will the project be finished?

            A crappy manager might just pull a date out of thin air and give that to the Big Bosses.
            A mediocre manager might ask the programmers, and then give the resulting date to the bosses without any processing or safety margins.
            Whereas a good manager would know which programmers tend to underestimate and which overestimate, come up with the Manager's actual expected date, and then add a big safety margin and then give that to the bosses.

            A good manager will need to keep up with stuff enough to know when someone might be bullshitting him (and perhaps countercheck it with someone/a source he can trust).

            2) Stuff happens and the manager has some misc extra stuff to do and assigns it to the team.

            With a crappy manager, if the date was near ridiculous in the first place, some of the team might just start spending time preparing to leave (the top programmers can be quite re-employable). The project might then fail.
            With a mediocre manager, it means the team have to put in extra hours. Savvy members of the team would now start padding their future estimates by a LOT (instead of just a bit), if they haven't been doing that already. Future projects would be estimated to take X years rather than X months, or the mediocre manager would have to start pulling figures out of thin air and hoping for the best :).

            With a good manager, no changes. If the team starts trusting the manager's management skills more, they can start giving him/her less padded estimates.

            People might say a top programmer is 10 to 100x more productive than an average programmer, but in the hands of a crappy/mediocre manager, the top programmer might be using his extra productivity doing more fun stuff like contributing to open source projects, writing some cool game, or just plain slacking off.

            So with a good manager the productivity of a team can actually be far higher. Same team, different levels of productivity. Because the good middle manager can actually _manage_ the team and the bosses.

            3) The bosses might then say, "hey can't you get stuff done earlier? We have to make an announcement to the press etc by Date XYZ, otherwise we'd look bad in comparison to the competitors."

            A crappy manager would just push the date earlier and give that to the bosses.
            A mediocre manager might do the same.
            A good manager would negotiate (could we just announce the product rather than _release_ the product?) or see what he can get in return, for example in future he'd say to the bosses "Hey the team is overloaded already, we can't give them more stuff unless you want the project to slip".

            If the big bosses are also good, after a while they will trust the good manager too - e.g. they can believe him when he says stuff can be done and by X, or it can't be done.

            Whereas in the other cases, they'll just have to make stuff up and hope their Golden Parachute is well packed (as you can see, Golden Parachute packing skills are very important to Big Bosses ;) ).

            Note: most coders are crap. There'll be a few not so bad ones (not worthy of "DailyWTF" ;) ). So most of them can barely be competent with existing stuff much less keep up with the latest tech.

            So being a good manager is a bit like playing an RTS well, when:
            1) you can't micromanage too much or you start having problems with your troops.
            2) your troops are not that consistent, or reliable.
            3) Most of your troops are crap, you have to figure out "which can do what", and which ones are just being lazy.

            A good manager is very valuable (whether middle or upper management). An organization can do great things when it has good top management, good middle management and not too bad "grunts" :).
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Aceticon (140883)

              You forgot all the political skills part. Things like:

              • Managing Expectations: basically keeping the project stakeholders (those that have an interest in the project, such as future users) aware of the progress of it (instead of, for example, "disappearing" from the stakeholder's scope for 3 months while the project is being done); being upfront with possible problems and delays; being realistic about the ability to deliver certain features in a given time.
              • Knowing when to say Yes and knowing when to say No: o
        • by fractoid (1076465) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:49AM (#28617951) Homepage

          Slashdot generally seems to consider tech something that requires cutting-edge skills but management as something anyone could do.

          I don't know about that - I'd say it's more that Slashdot just considers management as something not requiring cutting-edge skills. The problem is, of course, that tech doesn't have that much of a career path. You go from junior tech, to tech, to senior tech... and then if you want to go further, you go into management. Technical positions don't scale. Even in engineering, you'll be doing more management than design if you're in charge of something big.

          Personally, I'm aiming (eventually) for IT security. From what I've seen, security scales well. You can be in charge of just your web server, or you can be in charge of a multinational corporation's WAN infrastructure, and you're still using most of the same skillset.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Nutria (679911)

            and then if you want to go further, you go into management. Technical positions don't scale.

            Instead of staying "in the front line" as a programmer, or going into "labor management", I went sideways into database management.

            Keeps me in direct contact with the hardware, I still do some programming, and lets me semi-mentor intelligent young programmers.

          • by mcvos (645701) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @05:05AM (#28619191)

            The problem is, of course, that tech doesn't have that much of a career path. You go from junior tech, to tech, to senior tech... and then if you want to go further, you go into management. Technical positions don't scale.

            Depends on the company.

            My dad managed to stay a tech for his entire career. He's good at what he does, but he hates doing management stuff, and refused to be in charge of anybody else. He still got very big raises early in his career, and soon got a bigger salary than his boss. Occasionally he gets put in charge of a project, but mostly he's managed to just do his own thing. He never says anything during meetings, but when he does, people listen, because it's bound to be important.

            But it's probably a lot easier to advance that far in a management track. My dad's situation requires a boss who recognises and rewards talent, and a company that's willing to accommodate eccentric talent. But if my dad had even the slightest bit of talent and will to do management, he'd probably have made even more money. He didn't, but he's quite happy where he is.

            And if you go the tech route, you really do need to keep learning and improving. My dad was about 50 when he learned Java, and now he does most of his programming in Java, and does open source Java programming in his free time.

        • by 1u3hr (530656)
          Being a good manager requires staying up on the management skills, techniques, and tools. It also often requires some politics, budget skills, and decisiveness.

          I've done some management, though on a very small scale. So I can agree that it requires some politics, budget skills, and decisiveness". However, "management skills, techniques, and tools" are all just bullshit, as far as I could tell. The only management tool I used was a Lotus spreadsheet to do the monthly budget. Looking at the crap that MBAs

        • by tsm_sf (545316) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @01:12AM (#28618085) Journal
          Slashdot generally seems to consider tech something that requires cutting-edge skills but management as something anyone could do. I haven't found that to be the case.

          Me either. Any project that I've worked on that was managed well always felt like the manager was meta-programming, if that makes sense to you. Seems to be a rare skill, much harder to pull off than just being a good programmer.
        • by Hognoxious (631665) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @03:11AM (#28618669) Homepage Journal

          The /.attitude in a nutshell:

          X is really hard.
          Anybody can do Y.

          Where X = what I do and Y = anything else.
                 

          • Not Quite (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Chrisq (894406)
            I don't do brain surgery but I wouldn't suggest that just anyone could do it. As others have said it is because we can SEE that what managers do is often just follow the latest trends, buzzwords, etc.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by dintech (998802)

          Personally if I left tech I'd head for business development, but that's just me. You still get to play with all the latest toys that way.

          I'd head to HR for the same reason...

      • by pudro (983817) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:21AM (#28617785)
        If all other things are pretty much equal, I would consider these two things:

        1) If you aren't already including it in "how happy you are with either job", consider how much you have to put up with other peoples crap. Since you say that you enjoy management, do you really already understand how much more other people's ignorance and attitudes you will have to DEAL with (as opposed to just LIVING with it as non-management)?

        2) Where are you more needed? Often times management has more underqualified individuals in it. Or just people who are otherwise qualified but just lack the management skills. Or are you that good at the techie stuff that you are the one that really makes stuff happen most of the time? How many others are there that easily could fill your spot in either position, should you not take it? I don't mean this in a "for the good of the business sense" way, but rather in the sense that making a bigger difference in either role could add additional "happiness" to the basic aspects of the jobs themselves.
    • by bigbird (40392) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:39AM (#28617893) Homepage

      Good advice. Spending 8+ hours getting paid for doing what you love will help your life to be a happy one. Doing stuff you don't like for half of your waking hours will make life a misery.

      And it is hard to succeed if you don't love what you are doing.

      If you love coding, stick with it - there will always be a job for you. I'm in my 40's and have been coding for many years. There's nothing like getting paid to play, and there's no end in sight yet!

    • by los furtive (232491) <ChrisLamothe@gmai l . com> on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:41AM (#28617905) Homepage

      Getting happiness out of the job is a bonus.

      If getting happiness out of the job is a bonus, you've got the wrong job. Worse yet, your boss has the wrong employee.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Travoltus (110240)

        Well then, why don't you work for free? Will you be as happy then?

        Why do you think everyone, and I mean EVERYONE wants to get rich quick and retire early so they can go fishing or gaming or other hobbies that typically don't make money instead of work?

        I betcha that if you took 100 people who are happy doing what they do for work and you gave them the same salary to stay home and slack... 99 of them would stay home. Including you.

    • Certainly do what makes you happy and I don't think the age thing matters at all. I know plenty of over 40 architects and developers who are more effective than they ever were when they were younger. All things being equal on the happy front, here is a question I might ask to help you decide. As a disclaimer I'm an under 40 architect at a fortune 100 for what it's worth.

      Are you going to be an independent contractor? If so I advise tech with heavy expertise in a niche specialization if possible. The
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tuxgeek (872962)

      The only reason people want money is for happiness

      Bullshit! you can't buy happiness with money. I've known lots of millionaires and they are all miserable people and nuts to boot. It's all proportional, the more money someone has, the closer they get to complete asshole certification
      Makes me glad to be an average working stiff, but I'm happy.
      Happiness is doing something you enjoy.
      When you get out of bed tomorrow morning, rise with the thought that this day will be a great day, that's pretty much how happin

    • by EdIII (1114411) * on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @01:11AM (#28618081)

      The only reason people want money is for happiness.

      Sometimes it is for unnecessarily slow moving dipping mechanisms, hollowed out magma lairs, and sharks with frikkin' laser beams attached their heads. Oh wait... that's happiness too. Nevermind.

  • Do both (Score:2, Interesting)

    Cover both bases. Why not? I have. I'm 53 and it just keeps on getting more interesting that way.

    Cheers.
  • management (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zork the Almighty (599344) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @11:53PM (#28617529) Journal
    Ageism in tech is very real, and even if you're not seeing it yet, you will in another 10 years. By that time it will be too late. Get on the management track while you can.
    • Re:management (Score:4, Insightful)

      by scubamage (727538) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @11:58PM (#28617593)
      I don't think that's entirely true. I would never, ever argue anything technical with Andrew Tenenbaum, for instance. If anything, most of the older techs I've had the joy of working with know their stuff extremely well and their experience makes them a tour de force in any sort of technical emergency. However, I think their experience also tends to lead them towards management - if only because young unseasoned techs constantly come to them with questions.
      • Re:management (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:07AM (#28617677) Journal
        Thirty-nine was so twenty years ago...

        I look at management - and consultancy, which is the same thing without the head count - as simply playing with lines of code that are much bigger. Bigger building blocks, if you will. Instead of data structures and algorithms I put together DBA's and network people and infrastructure agreements, and match people and tasks.

        The need for correct syntax and error correction applies at any level. But it certainly pays to have learned everything up to that point; there are fewer places where gremlins can hide & catch you unawares if you're not quite that easily fooled.

        Technology teaches you to think. The other stuff teaches you to value thinking correctly.

        • Completely agree (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Kupfernigk (1190345)
          I went into management at 37, ran various sizes of engineering team, trained and developed a few engineers, ran a few software projects on the side, then got into process engineering, designed complete manufacturing plants and their workflows (including the logistics and fulfilment systems), became a general manager, went into consulting, and now as I wind down towards retirement I not only manage the team that provides the consulting software, but write a fair bit of code where systems modelling is needed.
    • by curmudgeon99 (1040054) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:00AM (#28617613)
      I hear the irony in your comment: just trying to weed out the competition by sending them over the cliff that is management, ay? Pretty fiendish...
    • by hemp (36945)

      Ageism in tech is very real, and even if you're not seeing it yet, you will in another 10 years. By that time it will be too late. Get on the management track while you can.

      If he is not seeing it already, he is not paying attention.

    • I'd say if you were trying to stay employed at some hip web design house or a game development company that may be true, but where I work there are lots and lots of older people still doing highly technical things.

      I completely changed track and got a masters in CS last year at the age of 46 and managed to get a great job doing technical work at a very cool place, so don't tell me ageism is so pervasive that you can't do what you like.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Minupla (62455)

      *Disclaimer: I went the manager path*

      Yes there is ageism in IT. There are types of jobs that you will never get hired for beyond a certain age, as you will be viewed as too expensive for the position. For instance, no one ever hires a 35 yr old for a entry level coding position. As you get higher in age, the fewer avenues are open to you. Eventually you end up with a choice between high level technical specification (Sr Architect positions, etc) or Management.

      The problem is that there are very few senio

  • Not a greybeard.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy@@@tpno-co...org> on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @11:53PM (#28617531) Homepage

    But if you enjoy both, the choice is clear; go with what will keep you employed longer. If you feel you can't keep up with the day to day in tech anymore ( a common concern ), then by all means jump to being the PHB.

  • Follow your passion (Score:5, Informative)

    by mzungu (316073) <rubenbNO@SPAMbsrb.net> on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @11:54PM (#28617539) Homepage

    Over the long haul, following your passion is the way to go.

    I have been at a similar crossroads, and went the management route. I am currently re-eavluating that decision since I get much more joy out of being hands-on and much less joy out of the routine administrivia that comes with being a manager.

    If you get more joy out of managing than you do as a tech, then that's likely the way you should go.

  • go for management (Score:5, Insightful)

    by davidone (12252) <davide <dot> saccon [at] gmail {dot} com> on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @11:54PM (#28617543) Homepage Journal

    Think about how many young people are being graduated all over the world today.
    Think how are they eager to work for way less than you get.
    Think how faster than you they are at learning new things.
    Now where'd you put the only asset you have, i.e. experience?

    • by jhoger (519683) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:26AM (#28617819) Homepage

      Think about how many young people are being graduated all over the world today.

      Lots of green recruits that think they know everything but don't. Welcome to Software.

      Think how are they eager to work for way less than you get.

      Commensurate with the quality of their work (where quality includes correctness, time to completion, and maintainability at least) since they have no Experience...

      Think how faster than you they are at learning new things.

      Umm, Bullshit. You're telling me that after 25 some years of learning within this field I'll have a harder time learning new tech? There's really not much new under the sun, Son. Did you know C# just got Lambda expressions?

      Now where'd you put the only asset you have, i.e. experience?

      Pretty high... apparently you haven't read any job listings, since HR drones do too.

    • by Divebus (860563) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @01:03AM (#28618033)

      Now where'd you put the only asset you have, i.e. experience?

      Interesting, that. I got laid off a few months ago because I got kicked from pure tech up to management in a growing company. After a while, I was managing a lot but my tech edge was relatively dull and expensive. I was expendable.

      Now, I'm getting back into tech on my own. That's the place to be. I'm hooked up with two independent tech groups tired of the cheap/eager people with no experience. Both groups said they don't want "kids" making big decisions without the likes of me (56 yo) with my experience holding the ship's wheel.

      Manage if you must but keep your hands deep in your trade.

  • ...always having to keep myself up-to-date on everything tech and re-inventing myself with each Web.x release to stay on top. With the other, I'm being offered a chance to get into management, something I also enjoy doing and am seriously considering for the rest of my working life. The issue here is the age of my grey matter.

    That looks like some fear of what happens if you stay in tech. I've seen and worked with plenty of older workers in IT- if you are at a level where you feel like you can be on the le

  • Diversify (Score:5, Informative)

    by madcat2c (1292296) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @11:56PM (#28617575)
    Diversify to stay alive. Move into management, but keep current on tech. You will be much more valuable and more employable.
  • by curmudgeon99 (1040054) on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @11:57PM (#28617577)

    ... back to the Technical Side. Management is a task that has no upside. If you suck at managing people, they're fire you. If you're great at managing people, they will increase your responsibilities, inching you closer to your Peter Point. (See "The Peter Principle" for context.) If you handle the heightened expectations, they will raise you to a higher management level, thereby eliminating your chance to contribute in your old way, or they will reassign you to fix some ailing project.

    If you have made it this far in the technical world, it means you are competent at it. If you were a bozo, they wouldn't be discussing an alleged promotion. By all means get into management if you hate the technical stuff. That is your choice. But I would say--if you're hankering for management--that you take the safe road: become a software architect. This involves so much politics and human engineering that you might as well be a manager.

  • by adamkennedy (121032) <adamk@c[ ].org ['pan' in gap]> on Tuesday July 07, 2009 @11:58PM (#28617597) Homepage

    It's nearly impossible to maintain the energy and volume of coding that you do in your 20s.

    As you get older, your energy and raw intelligence is going to fall, but your experience and wisdom is going to increase.

    If you can, you need to find some way to channel and adapt to this change.

    On the pure technical side, that is going to mean heading up from coding into higher level design and architecture, solving the conceptual level problems (with a reliably high level of correctness) of how a big system will work and then steering teams of people for the implementation. You'll still be coding semi-regularly, but if you're lucky you will only have to step in to solve the REALLY hard/interesting bits that the lower level people can't handle. Sometimes this means picking a specialisation and sticking with it, certainly.

    If you aren't one of the technical elites in this way, management can be another way to utilise your experience and wisdom. This is especially the case if you've worked a lot with medium to large teams on projects, and you've gained an understanding of how to set up effective development teams. Management also carries with it a political/social/personality requirement. If you've got enough geek cred to know your field, but you can hang out with the sales and marketing people and be comfortable, then perhaps that is your direction.

    • Check your pulse (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:19AM (#28617763) Journal
      What sort of books do you prefer to buy? Does your buying strategy include more "Minimal Perl" than "Blue Ocean Strategy? Do you prefer to spend on "The Definitive Guide to MySQL" or "Good to Great"? Which ones do you prefer to read nowdays? The answer to that question could point to the answer to your larger question.
    • by hemp (36945)

      It's nearly impossible to maintain the energy and volume of coding that you do in your 20s.

      Pahlease...typical stereotype.

      An someone not in their 20s any more I am twice as productive as I was fresh out of college. Sure, when I was in my early 20s I wrote a lot more code. Now I write a lot less code, but it is far and away much better, tighter code.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Smithy66 (1230222)

      It's nearly impossible to maintain the energy and volume of coding that you do in your 20"

      Isn't it the quality of the code not the quantity. Surely 20 years of hard won experience as a coder learning how to do it properly trumps a brain with maybe half the age but none of the wisdom.

  • by kiwimate (458274) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:01AM (#28617623) Journal

    Same age as you, and firstly I should say how fortunate you are to have this choice in the context of the current economy. Nice position to be in :)

    My perspective: there are definite niches in tech, and if you find one you can become virtually irreplaceable. But if your skills are more generic (no matter how good), then ageism is a very real danger, as your experience and longevity become more expensive.

    Most people on /. seem to have a different problem. They have someone trying to push them into management and they have no desire to go that route. But you say you enjoy it. So, in your position, I'd be going the management route. With a strong technical background and some management skills/business knowledge, you become a very valuable manager, and that will only increase.

    One final point: if you try management full time for six months and find it's not really what you expected, will your company let you go back to the technical track? If so, then I'd say the choice writes itself. What have you got to lose?

  • ... you'll realize that, as soon as you take that first step into management, you're going to start being the butt of jokes.

    Unless you're my manager, of course. I never make fun of him, nor of his lack of technical acumen.

  • Both of those options give you the opportunity to keep learning new skills and applying them. Either way, you're going to have to keep up. In one case, you'll be starting something of a new career; in the other, you'll be honing your technical abilities and working on moving from Journeyman to Master.

    Are you a people person first, or a technology person first? Is the team you work with the part of your day that matters most to you, or the challenge of the work itself?

    Do what makes you happy. There's n

  • Which do you want to be?

  • Make my life as a lifelong technologist: provide technical competence in management, with knowledge to help you explain things to me and to tell when I'm seriously confused.
  • by FlyingGuy (989135) <flyingguyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:25AM (#28617807)

    I am in your age group. Having turned 50 recently, I look ahead to what is the next Big Thing for me. I did the management tour early on in my late 30's and found it distasteful since it involves trying to motivate people to get the job done and coddling upper management.

    As one poster said, It is trying to get adults who act like children to act like adults, and dealing with squabbles between developers, one who is is bound and determined to use Ruby and another who is just as determined to use something else, and trying to make everyone happy and productive and satisfy the sales weenies.

    Although i hate to say it because it makes me sound like more of a gray hair then I am, it is really time to sit back and take stock. I don't know if you have a family or not but this is a crucial decision and they have to be taken into account since your decision ultimately effects them as well.

    There is no pat answer for this, the answer has to come from you and your desires for your future. Although I am not sure I recommend it, if you are well known enough and have the hutspa to really sell yourself, do the ultimate sell out and become a consultant, it has worked for me.

  • Why?

    #1 More pay, most techies have a "salary cap" for their position and can only reach a certain level, managers go all the way to the top aka CEO. Also when the company starts having losses the first ones they downsize are techies.

    #2 You already have techie experience which will make you a good IT manager and become VP of IT or the CIO later.

    #3 As you age it becomes harder and harder to understand new technical trends. Younger techies will oust you for jobs and promotions. Might as well switch to manageme

    • by WebCowboy (196209) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:29AM (#28618477)

      ...if you aren't comfortable with "being evil" then don't go there.

      #1 More pay, most techies have a "salary cap" for their position and can only reach a certain level, managers go all the way to the top aka CEO. Also when the company starts having losses the first ones they downsize are techies.

      There is such a thing as "enough pay". I don't care how rich I am, if I hate what I do to get that money I'd be unhappy. There are lots of ways to make six figures in a highly technical career. That is enough for most people--if you don't think so then you might want to re-evaluate your priorities.

      Also, in the case of my former emplyer the techies were NOT the first to be laid off--the first were "middle management"--the ones that seemed to me "district X manager" or some such title, where "x" changed every other year (or even more often). Hourly labour was next when a manufacturing facility was shut down and work was consolidated in another facility. Techs were about the third round of layoffs. Thing is, if the need to cut costs is deep enough NOBODY is immune to layoffs, unless you are VERY high up the chain, and at 39, most people are at a point where they are "mid-level" in a corporate structure--and at that level it is managers that are MOST vulnerable.

      #3 As you age it becomes harder and harder to understand new technical trends.

      Not everyone gets dementia when they get older--most people retain more than enough of their cognitive abilities well past retirement age. It seems everyone who complains about ageism in an argument to go into management is most guilty of it themselves. You don't become mentally feeble at forty. Old dogs CAN learn new tricks, and besides, someone has to fix the messes left behind by young techies who are still over-confident in themselves and make poorly thought-out decisions.

      Furthermore, making the argument that you should leave tech for management when you get older because you aren't mentally sharp enought to keep up with tech implies that management is for the feeble-minded. Please don't make such an implication--being an effective manager requires one to be mentally sharp, and besides, there are already way too many ineffective, feeble-minded managers out there.

      #4 Managers have better benefits and the "golden parachute" clause in that if they fire you or lay you off, you get a nice severance package.

      This is not the case unless your title includes the words "president", "chief" or "officer". Severance is generally based on salary and years of employment. If you are a mid-level techie or a mid-level manager you are likely to get similar severance pay as you're likely to have the same length of employment and not-too-different salaries. More technically oriented layoff victims are also more likely to be brought back on a consulting basis.

      #5 Any company that is willing to promote a techie to a management position is a valuable company to work for,

      Only if they are able to recognise if that person has a knack to manage a team of people. A technical person without an aptitude for management skills is probably worse than a manager who is good at managing but lacks technical skills--primarily because a good manager knows how to delegate such tasks effectively.

  • Many of the skills that make a good technical worker can make a good technical manager. You need to pay attention to details, keep track of a lot of different tasks, break up problems into manageable pieces, quantify risks and benefits, deal with unreasonable folks on occasion.

    Some people claim that a good manager does not need to know much about the industry being managed. The idea is that a good manager can find the proper people that understand what they need to do and do it. I think this is true in an i

  • A lot of people here have assumed you're a coder. However, without specifying what you do, or the type/size of company that you're at this can be a tough answer to accurately provide. Either way, if you want to stay technical, then I would suggest increasing your sphere of influence. Now if you enjoy banging away at the keyboard all day, there's not much in the areas of expansion for you. But let's say that you want more influence than just some aspect of a product.

    Can you move from a design/task based

  • by eyrieowl (881195) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:39AM (#28617891)

    I have wondered the same thing. I'm not yet at a decision point about it, but when I think seriously about the future, I worry about whether staying in hardcore development and architecture is going to be sustainable or not. There seems to be so much less room in the world for "senior" technologists than for equally senior managers, and I am not sure what that will mean for my career. I can not imagine how I would get on not being able to get my hands in there and solve the really hard problems, but I wonder if I'll have to step back from doing that simply to be able to stay in the game. As much as I would have a hard time contemplating a career in management, I would have an even harder time being an old, unemployed developer who can't get an interesting job b/c he's too "senior". Aging sucks. At any rate, for myself, I think I'm pretty committed to trying to ride the technical path as far as I possibly can simply b/c I care so much more about it. Here's hoping....

  • by PinchDuck (199974) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @12:40AM (#28617901)

    15 years ago. Ick. Now I'm back in tech and loving it. If you love management, and are good at it, than go for it. God knows, there are too few good managers. I was one of the bad ones, which is why I went right back into coding. I wasn't PHB bad, but I hated doing project management/personnel/fighting for resources. If you have the talent for that and want to do it, go for it. I wouldn't be too worried about your age when it comes to coding, however, as long as you love to learn new things you'll be able to stay current for your entire professional life. It isn't lack of intelligence that does in people, it's getting locked in their ways and refusing to accept new ideas.

  • It is obviously a personal choice, but the fact that you are asking here means you haven't really make up your mind. Personally, at the age of 39 (currently I'm 29) I'd be seriously looking at management. Not necessarily because you love it or for the money, but for the simple fact that staying on top of technology requires A LOT of time on self-study. As you get older, you have other priorities assuming that you are married with children (if not I suppose all bets are off, do whatever you wish :) ). Bu
  • You could be the tech guy they need while they cut "mid management" to save money.

    I quit being a tech guy because after chemo, it hurt my hands all the time because of the nerve damage.

    OTH, over the years, I've seen tech people cut and replaced with cheaper idiots (often after a request to "document everything you do").
    OTH, I've seen people who documented everything (including myself) promoted.

    It's a gamble.

    Spend less than you make, and work at something you enjoy. I love helping people and tolerate/enjoy

  • by istartedi (132515) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @01:01AM (#28618027) Journal

    Just read your own post as if it were written by somebody else. You can tell by the tone that you want to take the management job. A techie who is expressing reluctance about "having to keep up" is not going to be a happy techie.

    If you aren't going to be happy doing it, you won't be successful.

    Take the management job. It's plainly what you want.

  • ... I can't imagine doing management. I just like doing tech stuff and it doesn't help if I have speech and hearing impediments. :(

  • You're still young, dude!
    When I was in my 30's I had the same decision, and found it to be a choice between doing something I did well (technical) and something I did kind of poorly (management). Easy decision. I have spent the next 20 years keeping up with various technologies. I have done well, but recently discovered the secret (for me) of effective management. I have discovered that, even though I can outperform ten normal individuals, I can manage a team of ten that does about three times what I could

  • by turing_m (1030530) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @01:06AM (#28618059)

    being a techie for the foreseeable future -- always having to keep myself up-to-date on everything tech and re-inventing myself with each Web.x release to stay on top

    COBOL

  • My mirror career (Score:5, Insightful)

    by freedom_india (780002) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @01:15AM (#28618101) Homepage Journal

    Well, you seem to mirror my career although you are older by 5 years.
    I was a techie in my early years of my 14 years of IT career. Cut my teeth on JDK 1.0.2 and was the one of the first to introduce Java to Citibank via a working prototype that used RMI/JRMP: won an award for the same.
    Over the years as i got promoted beyond my capabilities, i realized two things: I was a leader, not a manager. I created and built teams that were fiercely loyal and extremely professional. But like me, they too hated the Administrivia of Management and refused to enter "Management".
    I also recognized a truth: The MBAs in suits look down upon techies. The Techies look down upon MBAs as paper pushers. You need someone who has the confidence of techies BUT also has an MBA under his belt to talk sense to the management.
    Someone who can talk to Clients directly on their business needs, understand their business problems on Compliance, Dealer Management, Funds Treasury investment across borders, EoD transaction nettings, etc and then turn around talk to the techies about EJB Entity Beans, Message Driven Beans, WebSphere 5.1.3 to WebSphere 6.0 AS migration to achieve the same.
    I realized that such people are far and very few. Most take to Management after the required years as a techie and lose touch with technology. Some stay with technology and refuse to understand the business reasons and concerns that put food on their plates.
    You need to be the one who bridges both and has the confidence of both.
    I can walk up to any Bank and talk sense to their suits: Corporate Actions payouts, T+2 settlements, Securities Loans, etc. Why? I have a PG in Banking under my belt. But i can also come back to my teams and talk to them about evaluating their architecture via SAAM rather than ATAM, mathematically evaluating a design for fitness for purpose, not preferring AJAX for security reasons, architecture patterns, etc. Why? Because i daily go through the grind and understand their difficulties. FYI Its not easy to migrate from WAS 5.1.3 to WAS 6.0 on OS/390 when you have session beans invoking MDBs and you are using SQLJ.
    In short, you need to be a master of both.
    You need to wear two faces: one face which understands that the cold fork is for Salads and one who understands IE 7.0 DOM model.

  • by Pahalial (580781) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @01:47AM (#28618235)

    I'm sorry, but this is plainly obvious. Now there are a lot of useful comments in this thread about IT ageism and all that, but the wording of the submission is plain as day to anyone who cares to read between the lines: For continuing in IT you mention no particular positives, and harp on the negative aspect of having to stay up to date and 're-invent yourself'. Whereas w.r.t. management you only say that you seriously enjoy doing it and are seriously considering spending the rest of your working life on it.

    Ermmmm....

    Granted, you then go on to imply that management is for senile old men, but this only serves to clarify to your audience why you're having this issue: you have deep-seated preconceptions as to what type of people actually go into management, and while you respect the work itself and would like to shine in that respect, you can't get past your own mental blocks of seeing them all as Dilbert-styled PHBs.

    Well, by the power vested in me by Slashdot, I officially set you free. Go forth and manage, AND stay up to date on tech, and be the good manager that will render Dilbert obsolete. Use all the grey matter you have - and frankly you will need to - to properly challenge your talented techie workers while using them to the best of their abilities and making the latter obvious to those above you.

    I wish you all the best in your management career. Remember, while it's not the same as tech work, don't be afraid to treat it the same when it comes to research - there are innumerable useful books written to help ease you into management coming from any techie standpoint.

    • Well said (Score:3, Informative)

      by FreeUser (11483)

      Very well said. As others have said, if I had mod points today I'd have used one of them here.

      I had similiar misconceptions about management (and about big companies vs. small companies, etc.). Now I find myself in management, managing teams and projects that span the globe from Tokyo to London to New York and various and sundry places in between, and I discover that a) not only do I like it, but b) I'm surprisingly good at it and c) your tech skills don't atrophy, they grow. Even if you're not hacking s

  • by OrangeTide (124937) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @01:53AM (#28618261) Homepage Journal

    I have had lots of coworkers over 50 who are software or hardware engineers. And they are all great engineers. Some of them work full time, some run their own consultant companies.

    If you enjoy management, then the choice is pretty easy. Short term the pay is the same, but generally the limit for a tech guy is principle engineer, which is a director level position at pretty much any company. Beyond that you can only move "up" to CTO, where you usually don't get any salary and have to make due with stock options and selling your share of the company. In management you can move into a VP role, although it helps a great deal if you get an MBA. Without an MBA you probably can't easily rise past a director anyways. You're age is pretty "average" for people starting for an MBA, so it's not entirely out of the question if you have some long-term career plans.

    It is especially important to consider your long term path when you have another 15-25 years of career left to complete.

  • by QuasiEvil (74356) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:02AM (#28618299)

    Seriously, depending on where you work and what you want to do, you don't have to keep on top of every new fad. I'm a few years younger than you, but have largely considered most of the recent trends to be fads, or niche things. I'm a happily employed electrical engineer who does C, Forth, and 68k ASM programming and embedded work, and I've crafted my position to be as much business analysis as technical. I'm lucky enough to work for a department where I could basically morph my job duties to fit my talents. I considered management for a while for many of the same reasons that other posts suggest - that it has a further career track, and that I wouldn't be outpaced by the younger people coming in. In the end, I realized that there will always (or at least for the foreseeable future) be a place for programmers who have a greater understanding of the business their code supports, and have the skills to maintain and upgrade legacy systems. C isn't going anywhere for a few decades at least - it's still by far the most portable thing on the planet. I also realized that while I'm good at motivating and organizing good people, I suck horribly at dealing with the problem ones and therefore, I'm not management material.

    Don't give up the technical side just because you're afraid of learning new fad X, Y, or Z. If you're a technical type where software is not the end product but supporting a larger business, the ability to understand and solve business problems in a consistent, efficient, and rational manner is much more important that whatever the hell trend Infoweek is pushing this week. Give up the technical side because you honestly think you'd make a better contribution as a manager. In the end, doing what you enjoy and providing real value to the company will likely make you happy.

  • Great expectations (Score:3, Informative)

    by SpaghettiPattern (609814) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:04AM (#28618315)
    Apart from "what makes you tick" there's the expectations side.

    Not to put you down but realistically I'd say that at 39 you'll most likely wind up being a dispensable middle manager. As technical savvy person you most likely will be a pain in the arse for your peers and one management level higher. Either you're the talent that took the wrong road 20 years ago and will become CTO/CEO (not very likely, you're reading /.), or you will not fit in and burn out (most likely), or you're so completely bland that you are appreciated for not interfering (not likely, /.)

    Face it, 39 is late for starting anything new. Would you accept a middle manager which at 39 decides that being a middleware expert "really is his calling", as your peer?

    Even though most of us here think we would be better managers than the idiots that are currently managing us, we most likely won't. However basic and primordial we think management skills are, these remain skills which you have to acquire.

    If management is really what you want and you want to avoid the trap of "caring too much about the details of the product", you might consider moving to another field altogether. Think how easy it would be to push, say, fashion designers around. ("I can't sell this a s beige, Serge, call it Sahara Yellow.)

    FYI: At 45 I'm an absolute techy. Only now I start to really sense the way certain managers want my services and will stick knives in my back as soon as these are obtained. These are "management basics" and I'd be the laughing stock if I were to swap places.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cptdondo (59460)

      I disagree with this very strongly. Ask anyone in the military; the best offices are those who came up through the ranks. They understand what the average mudfoot/swabbie/wingnut/jarhead has been through, and, frankly, have the balls to stand up to upper management.

      Example: We were in Saudi, in the desert, in August. If you're not keeping up with geography, it's hot enough to melt a typical outside thermometer. My guys were doing heavy manual labor - building stuff. They all got camelbacks so they cou

  • by Jessta (666101) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @02:19AM (#28618389) Homepage

    continuously reinvent yourself?
    The IT industry doesn't change as quickly as people like to think. Those who sell re-training, frameworks, programming languages and bullshit have an vested interest in convincing you of this.
    World wide web:
    1991 - (hypertext linked pages)
    1995 - (hypertext linked pages, with scripting)
    1996 - (hypertext linked pages, with scripting and styles)
    1999 - (hypertext linked pages, with scripting and limited network access(xmlhttprequest))
    2009 - (hypertext linked pages, with enough scripting available to create applications similar to previously created native applications)

    Hardware gets faster, Operating systems add features, but software development and the user experience is pretty much the same.

  • Give it up. (Score:3, Funny)

    by John Hasler (414242) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @08:19AM (#28619949) Homepage

    > With the other, I'm being offered a chance to get into management, something I also
    > enjoy doing and am seriously considering for the rest of my working life.

    And besides, you will never have to think or learn again (after you learn to play golf, of course).

    > The issue here is the age of my grey matter. Will I still be employable in tech at this
    > age and beyond? Or should I relinquish the struggle to keep up with progress and take
    > the comfy 'old man' management route so that I can stay employable even in my twilight
    > years?

    Give it up. Your're already an old man. Your grey matter is totally ossified. Have you ever heard of anyone over 39 accomplishing anything?

    The fact that you even ask this question tells us the answer. You clearly see learning as a chore, and probably always have. Go into management. You are CEO material.

  • Elder Coder ahoy! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dragoness Eclectic (244826) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @09:17AM (#28620733)

    I've been a programmer since college in the 1980s. I don't use DEC BASIC or Turbo Pascal anymore, but C/C++ is alive and well, and I've picked up Perl and Python along the way. I keep staring at that Java textbook, too.

    I got my first genuine Silicon Valley job in 2007; it was quite interesting. (God, I love the Bay area!) My manager and I were the same generation and general level of experience; we had a lot to talk about. All the other programmers were a bunch of kids, frankly. 20-somethings and 30-low-somethings. Good kids, relatively sharp, but I learned that being young and sharp isn't the same as being experienced and still sharp. If you're willing to keep learning new stuff as it comes along, and new techniques, that huge fund of experience with problem solving and bug-hunting gives you a major advantage. Besides, you can tell the new kid from India war stories about working on the engine controllers for the Marine Corp's coolest toy.

    (I've also noticed that after you've unsnarled someone else's undocumented, buggy code for the Nth time in 20 years, you develop a strange fondness for well-written documentation, even if you have to write it yourself, and modular, well-structured code, even if you have to re-write it yourself, and coding standards, even if you have to invent them yourself. All that stuff I disdained when my professors back in college demanded it has come back to haunt me; damn, they were right--this stuff is a good idea! On the other hand, there are times when 'goto' is actually useful.)

    I personally have little aptitude for management and avoid it like the plague, but that's me. YMMV; just pointing out you can still program well beyond your age. You can, in fact, become the respected senior guru.

  • by The Fun Guy (21791) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @09:42AM (#28621197) Homepage Journal
    I did this on a temp basis last year - stepped out of a tech position and into an executive/management position for six months. It was more difficult than I expected. My tech skill level = expert. My management skill level = rookie. Unfortunately, I assumed I was an expert manager, so I dove in and acted like one. If I had understood the truth, I would have given myself more time to learn the ropes. My superiors took my swagger at face value, and expected me to be an expert manager from day 1, and solve extremely difficult personnel problems. I was out of my depth, and I did a poor job. MORAL: Management is a different skill set. Give yourself time to learn it. should I relinquish the struggle to keep up with progress and take the comfy 'old man' management route If you are expecting that management is all about playing solitaire and filling out the occasional budget report, I would suggest that you need to get a clearer understanding of what the job will entail. A manager who doesn't at least try to stay current with progress will be on a 6 year glide path to obsolescence. Once you have no idea what the tech people are talking about, and can't even understand their explanations, you will be a PHB who can't run the department efficiently. You'll be ripe for replacement by some bright 39 year old looking to move out of a tech job. You wouldn't take a tech job where you'd be forced to work with shitty equipment. In management, you'd be working with people, but the same rules apply. You should consider the people you'll be working with and for. Know their expectations. More importantly, you need to have a clear understanding of the people who will be working FOR YOU. In management, you should consider each person to be a different piece of kludgy, buggy, undocumented software. Each piece might work well under one set of circumstances, but make them interact and rely on each other under a different set of circumstances and there are no guarantees. Oh, and you don't have access to the source code for them either, so figuring out what makes them tick has to be done empirically, through observational reverse-engineering.
  • by Eskarel (565631) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:04AM (#28622559)
    and hang the rest of it.

    If you like being a tech and you want to be a tech and you haven't had any real problems being a tech, then keep being a tech. You're 39, not 90 and can in all likelihood continue to do whatever you set your mind to for another 20 years or so. If you like management and want to be in management take that job, if you really want to be a pastry chef go do that. Life's too damned short to do something other than what you want to do just because you're afraid it might be hard.

    There's a lot of other factors involved of course, there's different kinds of tech jobs some of which are less volatile than the web side of things, there's management jobs which are more technical and management jobs which are less technical. There's the question of whether you're any good at being a manager, or whether you're any good at being a tech, but none of them really matter.

    A lot of people will tell you to think of the future, think of where you can get if you do this or do that. They're probably also going to tell you to take the management path because that's the path to big bucks, and that could be the right choice for you, it could also not be. Do what you love if it's at all possible, and if it's not try to find something that's as close as you can get because going to work every day in a job you hate isn't worth it.

  • If you like tech analysis and have people skills, these two are good options where an older person is respected for tech knowledge.

    I'm 42, and slowly moving toward management roles. I still do sysadmin, but not anywhere near as much. The Tech Sales bit can be either pre-sales, where you largely prove concepts, do demos, write up project plans and such. It can also be just flat out sales. (not for me)

    Management of both these groups in a technical setting is challenging and fun. You will have a quota though. That's not so fun right now.

    If I were you, and enjoyed management, I would jump at the chance to add it to the resume. Given where tech spending is at right now, and given the ongoing outsourcing, I don't think management is a bad idea.

    Then you do tech hobbies to stay cool and relevant!

  • Management (Score:3, Insightful)

    by C_Kode (102755) on Wednesday July 08, 2009 @11:50AM (#28623327) Journal

    Go into management. If you still enjoy the tech side, you can always keep up with it. On the other hand, at some point the younger guys learn faster and will be cheaper to employ for those jobs. At some point in the future it can and probably will affect your employment!

An age is called Dark not because the light fails to shine, but because people refuse to see it. -- James Michener, "Space"

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